Just City

My memoir, Just City, is out now, published by Fordham University Press. Describing the book, Fordham University Press writes:

A Captivating Memoir of New York’s Historic Upper West Side at a Time When Community and Unity Defined the Neighborhood

Step into the world of Just City and embark on a poignant journey to a time when ideals were woven into the very fabric of a neighborhood. Baum’s evocative storytelling brings to life an era in New York City’s history where affordable housing wasn’t just a concept, but a reality that defined the essence of community.

Within the pages of this captivating memoir, you’ll find yourself transported to the historic Upper West Side—a place where diversity flourished and a shared belief in the importance of a home for all bound the residents together. Through personal anecdotes and heartfelt accounts, Baum illuminates her own upbringing alongside the stories of those who shared her neighborhood. She describes how as an adult; she came to appreciate that being raised in an integrated collective was a unique and exceptional experience. As she moves around the world for school, a husband, and work, she tells the story of her search for a home that would embody the values and community she grew up with.

Celebrate the legacy of an era when a city was truly a home, when principles of social responsibility thrived. Just City isn’t just a memoir—it’s an invitation to revive the spirit of unity and create a city where everyone belongs. 

Read my discussion of the book in this Q&A on Fordham University Press’s blog.

Read Publisher’s Weekly review of Just City here.

Praise for Just City:

“In this poignant debut, filmmaker Baum tracks 80 years of U.S. government subsidized housing policy and draws on memories of her own childhood, when her family benefited from a government-built affordable home. … Baum excels at capturing the allure of interdependent, close-knit communities, and affectingly joins her lament over their decline in New York City with her grief over the deaths of her parents. Informative and nostalgic, this makes for a bittersweet look at a time when America’s cities were affordable.”Publisher’s Weekly

Just City provides a deep and thoroughly contextualized understanding of subsidized housing for the middle- and lower-class in postwar Manhattan: the goals that brought politicians to create it; its actual development on the streets of New York; its rise and fall in popularity; and the broader state of mind that made such widespread urban policies possible. The book is a fascinating combination of memoir and urban studies.”—Jennifer A. Low, professor emerita at Florida Atlantic University and author of Dramatic Spaces: Scenography and Spectatorial Perceptions

“Mitchell Lama housing was always more than low-cost apartments in tower blocks. For many sponsors and residents, cooperation and mutual aid were just as important as shelter. Jennifer Baum captures that broader spirit in this readable autobiographical account, integrating personal memoir and housing policy analysis. For a rising generation excited about housing cooperation, Baum’s vivid description of the promise and challenge of earlier efforts is instructive.”—Nicholas Dagen Bloom, Hunter College, City University of New York

Order Just City here: